Big breakthrough! First time ever a solar-powered unmanned Aircraft flies successfully

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Published: February 18, 2020 4:43:45 PM

Designed, built and flown in less than two years, PHASA-35 is a product of collaboration between the UK based BAE Systems and Prismatic Ltd, which the Company agreed to acquire last year.

Built by the engineers of BAE Systems in Lancashire, the aircraft underwent further integration testing prior to flight trials.Built by the engineers of BAE Systems in Lancashire, the aircraft underwent further integration testing prior to flight trials.

Persistent High Altitude Solar Aircraft (PHASA-35) has the potential to stay to remain airborne for nearly a year and has been designed to work unmanned within the stratosphere, above the weather and conventional air traffic. According to the makers of PHASA-35, it will offer an affordable alternative to satellites combined with the flexibility of an aircraft and could be used for a range of valuable applications including fire detection and maritime surveillance. Plugging the gap between aircraft and satellite technology, the PHASA-35, with a 35m wingspan solar-electric aircraft has successfully completed its maiden flight, and has paved the way for it to become a game-changer within the air and space market.

Designed, built and flown in less than two years, PHASA-35 is a product of collaboration between the UK based BAE Systems and Prismatic Ltd, which the Company agreed to acquire last year.

According to the corporate statement, sponsored by the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and Australian Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG), the successful flight trials happened at the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Woomera range in South Australia. The first fully integrated flight test of the PHASA-35 system has proved that from the design stage it took just 20 months to go in for flight trials successfully.

Built by the engineers of BAE Systems in Lancashire, the aircraft underwent further integration testing prior to flight trials.

Solar Powered

As a High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) vehicle, it is powered by the Sun during the day and by batteries overnight. According to the makers due to the long-life battery and highly efficient solar technology, the plane could maintain flight for up to a year operating in the stratosphere, the upper regions of the Earth’s atmosphere.

When connected to other assets, PHASA-35 has the potential to supply both military and commercial customers with capabilities that aren’t currently available from existing air and space platforms. It also has the potential to be utilized in the delivery of communications networks including 5G, also as provide other services, like disaster relief and border protection, at a fraction of the cost of satellites.

Said Ian Muldowney, Engineering Director for BAE Systems, “To go from design to flight in less than two years has shown that we can rise to the challenge the UK Government has set industry to deliver a Future Combat Air System within the next decade.” According to company officials, further flight trials are scheduled for later this year, with the likelihood that the aircraft could enter initial operations with customers within 12 months of the flight trials programme completion.

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